The prosecution of three Moscow activists on charges of vandalism is unlawful and politically motivated

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers the criminal prosecution of Moscow activists Olga Misik, Igor Basharimov, and Ivan Vorobyovsky politically motivated and unlawful.

We believe the acts imputed to the three defendants do not provide grounds for their prosecution for vandalism. The criminal proceedings against Misik, Basharimov and Vorobyovsky are politically motivated and intended to intimidate Russian civil society and prevent citizens exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Who are the defendants and what are they accused of?

Olga Misik, 19, Igor Basharimov, 27, and Ivan Vorobyovsky, 24, are opposition activists and supporters of the ‘Perpetual Protest’ in Moscow. All three were charged with vandalism committed by a group of people (Article 214, Part 2, of the Criminal Code).

According to the investigation, on the night of 8 August 2020, in protest against the verdict in the New Greatness case the three allegedly put up posters on the fence outside the Lyublino district court on the outskirts of Moscow and then, in the city centre, splashed red paint on the entrance to the General Prosecutor’s Office and stuck another poster on it.

According to the investigators, Misik, Basharimov, and Vorobyovsky desecrated the buildings of the district court and the General Prosecutor’s Office and also damaged the external appearance of the Prosecutor General’s building, causing damage costing 3,464 roubles 50 kopecks.

The activists were arrested on 9 August 2020 and released the next day under pre-trial restrictions that banned them from undertaking certain actions.

In February 2021, the case against the activists went to court.

Why Memorial considers the prosecution of the three activists politically motivated

We believe there are no legal grounds either for the criminal prosecution on charges of vandalism or for the pre-trial restrictions imposed on the activists.

The alleged crime of vandalism implies desecrating buildings or damage to property in public places with direct intent.

We consider the investigation does not have sufficient grounds to claim the buildings of the court and of the Prosecutor’s Office were desecrated because the actions of the activists were aimed not at insulting society, but, on the contrary, at protecting the socially important value of justice.

The material damage allegedly caused by Misik, Basharimov, and Vorobyovsky was negligible. Moreover, their legal defence convincingly demonstrated that the evidence of damage was falsified.

In any case, for causing the damage with which they have been charged and putting up posters in unauthorised places, the activists can be held liable only under administrative, not criminal, law. We believe the criminal prosecution of Misik, Basharimov, and Vorobyovsky is unfounded and is in reaction to statements they made criticising the politically motivated wrongful convictions in the New Greatness trial.

A more detailed description of the case and the position of Memorial can be found on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

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Read this statement on Memorial’s web-site